So the year of 2004 still has a few weeks to go, but some of us have had quite enough of living for today and have begun thinking about yesterday… 11 months of yesterdays to be exact.
I’ve begun compiling a list of the “best of” lists, primarily for alt.music but some movie lists and other things might crop up too, mostly of things I read or come across.
So the year of 2004 still has a few weeks to go, but some of us have had quite enough of living for today and have begun thinking about yesterday… 11 months of yesterdays to be exact.
d, w: Nancy Meyers
I can’t help it, I’m a sucker for a really good chick flick. There’s not many of them… Some Kind of Wonderful, Say Anything, Bridget Jones’s Diary… but a really well made tale about falling in and/or out of love makes me very happy.
Something’s Gotta Give is one of those movies. It’s not frivolous, it has rich characters with deep meaning, and it proves that even past the age of fifty romance doesn’t have to just be cute.
This movie is a diatribe on both the aging woman and the aging man. It confronts crude stereotypes of unsexuality head on. We seen Diane Keaton in the full monty and Jack Nicholson’s bare ass. They also have a fun and, yes, titillating love scene.
d: Jon Favreau
w: David Berenbaum
Generally, Christmas themed movies make me kind of nautious… they’re overtly sentimental and cutesy to a patronizing degree. With the exception of Die Hard, and to a lesser extent, Scrooged, I can’t really think of a Christmas movie that demands repeating.
Elf takes the hyper-energetic skew of a classic claymation television special, but keeps amping it up for a full 90 minutes of Christmas cheer that doesn’t make you feel queasy.
I’ve always found Will Ferrell to be incredibly funny, mainly because he has no limits to what he will do. But what makes him such a great comedic actor is he can step into character, inhabit that character, and stay in character without reverting to Ferrellisms. He doesn’t have any catch phrases or signature characteristics when performing, which is exactly what makes him stand out.
d: Michael Mann
w: Stuart Beattie
When I think about Collateral it seems a little stupid, a little conventional, a little weak. And yet while watching the film there is actually very little stupid, conventional or weak about it. The credit has to go to Michael Mann and his team for taking a story which could have been played so wrong in so many different ways (for instance, they could have cast Jimmy Fallon and Queen Latifah and stuck them in a taxi together for two hours). But this film is 100% correct.
Though Tom Cruise’s name may be bigger on the marquee, there’s not mistaking that this is Jamie Foxx’s lead. Cruise get’s the more enjoyable role as the hitman forcing Foxx’s taxi driver to curiour him between jobs, but Foxx gets the meatier role, deep character traits, a flurry of emotions, and a deceptively complex and underestimateable man.
It never ceases to give me a severe case of the wiggins when the temperatures hit the +°C. Being from North Western Ontario (NWO repazent!) where if the temperature hits above -10 it’s a good day this melty-snow/rainy winter weather is just freaky, and all kinds of wrong. Apparently this Friday the temp is going to reach +10 and at midnight, New Year’s Day it’s supposed to still be 4 or 5 degrees. It’s the end of the world as we know it.
Plagues (BSE, Norwalk, Asian Bird Influenza, SARS), swarms of locusts, tsunami causing earthquakes that causing time to shift… man, we’re in for it now.
That earthquake and the subsequent tsunamis have wreaked a horrendous amount of damage. It’s being covered in depth around the world and the fallout, for lack of a better term, continues to reveal more and more devastation. Death toll is currently above 68,000 and expected to top out at double that. With all the corpses in the waterworks now, the drinking water is going to toxify with viruses and plagues and the death toll from that is expected to be at least equal to that of the initial onslaught.
The Canadaian death toll is currently at 2 officially, with at least 40 people missing. My friend and coworker was travelling to Thailand for vacation on the 26, and we’re unsure as to whether she would have landed before the earthquake and tsunamis hit or if she was diverted in the air. I know it’s a long trip there and my suspicion is she didn’t even make it out of North America but you never know.
Some Canadians are returning home, I saw on the CBC news this morning. While they feel fortunate to have survived unharmed. one couple wasn’t celebrating anything. They were on the resort beach of a remote island called Phi Phi, the man said, when the felt the earth tremble. Shortly thereafter all the water was rapidly pulled away from shore, and just as quickly as it left it returned, and kept coming.
Everyone quickly abandoned the beach, all their belongings, passports etc. and headed for the small mountain nearby. They climbed to the top and were saved by a rescue ship a few hours later. On Taiwanese man they met, however, shared his tragic story. He had left that morning in his boat to go fishing when it happened, and his wife drowned, one son was decapitated, the other son was torn in two.
The returning Canadians were anything but rejoiceful.
There are thousands of stories like that and there will be thousands more. Just a quaint reminder that, while we may dominate the planet, we’re no means in control.
Disaster Relif donations can be made on-line
Well, it’s hard segue between that unpleasantness and the more festive events of this past weekend… but like the inept anchorpeople at your local news, I’ll give it the ol’ college try.
I spent the weekend in Barrie, Ontario with my folks and Emma at my sister and her S.O.’s abode. Mother had made numerous baked desserts upon which I gorged my tubby little arse off. We played a game of dominoes and some poker-light, and opened presents and made fun of my dad as he attempted to dilute the strong flavour of an Indian Spiced tea with sugar, milk, whip cream, chocolate and, finally, a hearty dose of Kahlua. I think the last bit worked.
My future in-laws met Emma’s future in-laws on Monday as we jetted to Owen Sound for a happy brunch time full of eating, drinking, and then eating again. When we finished eating, we ate a little more and then we headed back to Barrie, ditching Emma with the cleanup duties at her Moms place.
All told in the weekend, I gained three pounds of fatty tissue as my body converted most of what I ate into sugar which was then converted into nonessential fat an placed on the medically designated “spare tire” areas of the body… the place which I like to refer to as “the winter waistband”.
Boxing day sales were pleasantly ignored and no shopping of any kind was anticipated, although my Mother wished to purchase me a new winter coat which by the looks of the forecast I’m not going to be needing. The coat shopping involved hitting a half dozen of conventional mall-like places with their generic outdoor-actif wear, none of which struck my fancy. The closest I got was a down-filled Kodiak vest at an outlet store which wound up being 50% off. It’s got an iPod pocket. Score!
Emma and I also agreed that when we have children… ahem… child, we will not be celebrating the sensationalistic shopaholic spendariffic XMas, but rather we will exploit the commercial possibilities of the Winter Solstice, which also means we must exploit the commercial applications of the Summer Solstice… double present score!
That said, I’m broke. Payday come soon.
Last year’s list
1)watch more movies
2)do more writing
3)a little more exercise wouldn’t kill ye
4)don’t use so much money for lunch
1) I rented over 100 movies this year… so yeah, did that.
2) well, I started a bunch of stuff, and jotted down some more ideas, and my blog entries have gotten longer, and I’m doing more reviews, so, yeah, I guess I’ve done that
3) I did extensive amounts of biking and walking and I’ve found me a nice chin-up area at home so check.
4) Hmm… I think I’ve reduced my lunch bills overall. It certainly seems like it… so I’ll score a check here too.
The latest resolutions list coming soon.
What do the Grinch and Star Wars have to do with each other? Read on true believers….
About 10 years ago I popped a tape into the tape deck and pressed record. On the radio Brent Bambury was kicking off a Christmas themed Brave New Waves. This recorded document was duplicated and given to my amigo GAK, who agreed that this was probably the best Christmas mixed tape around.
In the years since the internet and mp3 explosion I’ve been attempting to track down all the songs on the now well-worn mix tape to make a cd replica of. I’ve been somewhat successful, but considering how many rarities, records and made-for-radio elements were played I’m almost certain that I’ll never find a decent digital replica of everything.
What’s a guy to do?
Well, here’s what, plug a tape player into the computer and press record on the digital button. I tried this four years ago but the technology wasn’t ready for me, but now… now…
The result is, after a decade, the first, as I know it, digital copy of the performance comedy duo Star Wars Theatre’s rendition of Dr. Seuss’ “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas”
(to do a Google search for Star Wars Theatre and Grinch and the only reference is one of my own webpages).
This has been a Christmas staple for me. It’s not the holidays until I listen to this recording. Tragedy struck last year when my copy of the tape got ruined in the back seat of a now deceased car. But GAK to the rescue providing me with a mega cool retro mixed tape this XMas, complete with side one of that old tape.
So without further bubbling here it is, presented to all of you:
The Grinch Who Stole Christmas by Star Wars Theatre, an MP3.
(the link has been removed… if you would like a copy please email me at gmail at geekent period com)
That’s how many new blog comments spam I got from “online poker” and “free online poker” and “free party poker” overnight…
No to mention the fifty odd comments spam I received from them yesterday… and to think I thought I was going to get through December clean and clear without friggin gobs of comment spam (I’ve only had about four or five spam comments since the end of November…) *grumble*
It took me 45 minutes and a repetitive stress injury to delete all that shit out.
I’m never gambling again.
d: Zhang Yimou
w: Li Feng, Wang Bin, Zhang Yimou
It’s certainly a pretty film.
That’s the only concession I gave Hero, Zhang Yimou’s previous film.
And while I didn’t like House of Flying Daggers, it too is certainly a pretty film, and I can grant it one more concession: It’s not as bad as Hero.
d: Paul Greengrass
w: Tony Gilroy
The Bourne Identity was a surprising hit, a solid action film with an intriguing story, an interesting take on espionage, and lots of political intrigue. The Bourne Supremacy focuses more tightly on Jason Bourne as a character which makes it a successful sequel. In fact, the story even surpasses that of the first film.
But regardless it’s still disposable entertainment. There’s not a lot to ponder about this film, it’s its own self-contained universe with few loose ends dangling about. But the character and his actions, his forgotten memories and his motivations are all a bit deeper than the normal Dirty Harry or James Bond, which makes Bourne a welcome repeat at the theatre.
The direction is really the only drop in quality from the first film, not that Paul Greengrass isn’t capable - he does a fine job - but his fight sequences are just a little murkier, harder to see, a little too in-your-face and his chase sequence is excellent but still falls short of Doug Liman’s effort. Good fun.
d: Hayao Miyazaki
w: Hayao Miyazaki, (Jack Fletcher, John Semper US translation)
As I slowly make my way through Anime maestro Miyazaki’s filmography, I begin to realize that I’ve been pretty damn ignorant with respect to my lack of appreciation towards the Japanese cartoons.
I can liken Studio Ghibli as the precursor to Pixar, both studios fixated on telling the best story possible while at the same time exploiting their medium to its fullest advantage.
d: Sam Green and Bill Siegel
The various movements of the 1960’s and 70’s - the black power movement, women’s liberation, the anti-Viet Nam war protests amongst others - were all out to change the way North American society viewed itself, and as much as possible the activists used the media to circulate their message.
The Weather Underground takes an interesting look back upon this time period, with mounds of media footage that become even more interesting in light of the current Presidency in the United States, as well as the recent election in the Ukrane. At the same time it seems the media is a lot less biased and yet it still spins reports according to conservative demographics.
You can check out my reviews for American Splendor:Our Movie Year and Identity Crisis #7 over at Thor’s Comic Column
The Sin City posters are so incredibly Frank Miller, and goddamn, so is the trailer. I don’t know if the film is all style and no substance, but the style is pretty damn amazing.
Check the trailer out.
Seen in this week’s Now.
Man, Optimus Prime must be hard up for cash.
Roger Ebert has his top 10 list up plust 15 special mentions, and ten worst.
d, w: Mario Van Peebles
No matter how hard I try I’m never going to get the spelling right on the title of this
film without consulting IMDB. Two S’s, five S’s and an exclamation point.
Baadasssss! is a biographical film by Mario Van Peebles about the making of Sweet Sweetback’s Baadassss Song, which was the first successful film made outside the big studios. Plus the fact that it was the first successful independant film made by a black man, and the first film to address the common sentiment of anger and oppression in the black community, and it’s truly a film worth exploring, despite the fact that it’s really not very good.
d: James Foley
w: David Mamet
I don’t like salesmen. I work with some, and they’re okay, but they’re still salesmen, with their smarmy fake dialogue and “I’m better than everyone” attitude.
Glengarry Glen Ross is a movie based on a play that stars great actors playing salesmen. Jack Lemmon, Ed Harris, Alan Arkin, Kevin Spacey, Alec Baldwin… oh and Al Pachino is in there in a typically over-the-top Pachino role. They’re all unscrupulous lyers who talk over each other and swear often to let you know that each word they say is important.
Went to the doctor yesterday to have my head examined. I know people have been telling me to do this for years, so I finally took their advice.
Actually, it was trip number six to the optometrist in the past three months. Since the conjunctivitis infection took so long to clear up I couldn’t get a prescription for some time, and then I had to get a whole bunch of other tests and contact lens fittings and whatnot. Very pain in the ass but getting the all-clear on my healthy eyes is a good thing.
This trip on Wednesday was for a different purpose, however, as I hopped over to the Herzig institute to get my eyes tested to see if I’m a candidate for Lazik surgery… you know, the one where they cut a flap in your eye, pull it back, burn a chunk out of what’s there and put the flap back. Yeah, that one.
The test involved two lightshows, both requiring me to put my face in some twisted looking machine that eats babies for breakfast. The first was curved and had a series of flashing lights going off around my face creating a sonar ring pattern while I stared at a red light pointed at my eye (is that healthy?). The second was a beam that had a weird shape amidst it that went in and out of focus. Nothing too nasty there.
After the test I went back to the optometrist where he proceeded to put dialation drops in my eyes. These ones, with their sting, were obviously more potent than the last. I began to tear immediately and so I wiped my eye. The doc jumped when I wiped my eye saying “Don’t wipe your eye” but I had already, and I noticed they were yellow in colour. So he put a second dose of the drops in “just to be sure” and 20 minutes later the world was fuzzy… like when they put vaseline on a camera lens or pull a stocking over it… only, the light hurt.
After he checked my eyes by pointing bright shiny painful lights into it he said everything was great and sent me packing, stumbling about the city with pupils big enough to birth out of. I had a few Christmas errands to run, and overall, things were okay, only I couldn’t read anything that was closer than a meter with my glasses on, and I could only read things about 30 cm away with them off…
Doc said the effect would wear off in six to eight hours, so I bided my time watching tv, failing to make any use of the computer or a book. I flushed my eyes with salene solution before bed, and was hoping I’d be back to normal once I woke.
The next morning I didn’t really think anything of the fact that I really couldn’t focus on anything with or without my glasses, and the sunlight really really hurt. But I had a shower and popped some contacts in and realize 20 minutes later on the streetcar that contacts were a bad idea.
My pupils were still crazy dialated all day at work (I had to swear I wasn’t high on sumpin’), and the contacts cutting off oxygen and the cleansing tears were only keeping it there longer. Everything was hazy but I was still able to concentrate on work, for the most part, as aggrivating as it was.
Today, the pupils were still quite a bit larger than normal but they’re reverting back to their usual crappiness, as opposed to the new crappiness I was experiencing. It’s still a little difficult to focus on objects way up close but we’re getting there.
I’ll be so glad when I get that surgery done, and I don’t have to deal with glasses or contacts again.
other music list
New York City’s premier alt/indie music store, the Other Music, have compiled their favourite albums of the year, complete with Real Audio samples.
Check it, so much music your brain will hurt.
There’s some great Canadian contributions to the music scene this year, and CBC Radio 3 and New Music Canada have their top 20 NMC songs for 2004
In the same issue of CBCR3, they have The Magnetic Fields in concert at Trinity St Paul Church from July (could be the show I was at, could be t’other one)
Also in the same CBCR3 issue is a session with Julie Doiron with Radiogram.
That Radio 3, man… quality stuff I tells you… my 14.4 cents/day hard at work.
More pictures of our New York City trip are on-line (wow, it’s been over a month already). They’ve not been oriented properly yet… but, hey, we’re busy people.
Fake headlines, believe them, come back
Actually, it’s all true. The press release went out yesterday, and so, yeah, my company got bought out.
The rumour mill around work was freaky nasty in the days preceeding and people were getting paranoid and scared for their jobs. I have to say that despite my more rational thoughts, I couldn’t help but be a little nervous. I mean after 5 years I finally found a job I like, I’m very comfortable in, and I really quite good at. I like the company I work for, I like the people I work with, I like getting paid well on a regular basis, and I like the benefits. The uncertainty of acquisition/mergers/hostile takeovers as we see them on the news regularly spell layoffs and cost cutbacks. But this acquisition/merger is actually going to be a fairly good fit with our company operating business-as-usual for the forseeable future with, actually, growth projected, instead of scaling back. Major credit to our CEO and executive team for finding a company that wants to support us as we are, rather than amalgamate and change us all around.
Good news and relief, I was pretty buzzed all day yesterday, even staying until 8pm to help out with the preparation of some last-minute things. I slept pretty good last night.
Out of touch
I’ve had the strangest compulsion late to have some Hall & Oates on hand, and not on cd or mp3, but on vinyl. I didn’t look very hard, one or two places, before I found a couple of record containing classics like “Out Of Touch” and “Kiss On My List”, however, no “Maneater” or “I Can’t Go For That”.
Listening to the two records I got, yeah, they’re very eighties (especially the awful covers) but surprisingly they don’t descend into the same cheese factory that say, Huey Lewis or Poison has. There’s even the odd track that sounds fairly contemporary… what’s more is I can hear great loops in their songs that would make some awesome turntable/hip-hop fodder. If only I had the skillz.
What I’ve been noticing as I’ve been sifting through the dozens upon dozens of “best of” lists out there, is that everyone has their own tastes. What’s one person’s pap is another’s pop. Moreover what I’ve noticed - specifically in the mp3/music commentary blogosphere - is how limited most people’s musical tastes are… some people’s lists consist of purely fey twee artists, others consist of bands that are firmly entrenched in early 90’s sounding post-grunge.
And not that I’m the most diverse person out there, mind you. I’m not a huge consumer of world music, or new country, or reggae, or blues, or soul/r&b…I can appreciate some really great acts that emerge from those circles, but it’s generally not my listening pleasure. Yet, I do step beyond the borders of just the alt.rock/alt.country/alt.folk circle… you know the expected hipster stew pot/pony stable.
I’m not stuck in the past when it comes to what I like in most of my music, although with hip-hop I do have a tendency to lean towards sounds closer to new school (1988 - 94) era than Dizzee Rascal’s crunk or the mainstream thug thang.
I have no fond memories of the Pixies or of Nirvana, I pledge no allegiance to Bob Dylan or Johnny Cash, and the sounds of the 80’s aren’t generally fond memories for me. New takes on dated sounds are indeed new to me, and I judge things on how they please me. New takes on dated sounds can also still sound dated, though. Double edged sword and whatnot.
Music is always in slow progress, as artists take influence from other genres and eras to push the boundaries of their own. My favourite 7 albums list below is hopefully a reflection of this progress… a nod to the past while marching towards the future…
I’ve tried to pick albums that work in an album context and not albums that are just a couple of great singles packaged amidst filler. People are saying modern music is disparaging towards the album, companies eschewing the package for singles instead. But the mp3 blog and the iPod aren’t going to kill the industry, but moreover change it. An album is going to have to definitely be something more than a trio of hits in the mess of filler. Alternative music has never been about hit generation like the pop scene has. Indie/alt people in all genres make music because they love music first (not money or fame). Being commercial and viable is not what their lives are about, it’s the art and/or the message, refining their craft. These albums I hope reflect all this… albums that flow, that are repeatably listenable, and that make me nod my head, smile and sing or hum along (in alphabetical order)
1) The Arcade Fire - “Funeral”
What’s not surprising is how many best of lists have “Funeral” on it.
What is surprising is the number of lists that don’t have “Funeral” on them.
Is it from the lack of exposure or the inevitable indie-hipster sarcasto-snit-pomp-smarm-bomb that we knew would eventually hit these kids from Montreal who have blown up big, fast and hard (no innuendo meant)?
But try the album, and try a live show, and then just try to be cynical about them. Can’t be done.
Sheer jesus, “Funeral” is powerful and evocative and the it is solid from the first song to the last, played in any order.
If I were to rank albums numerically, this would come first anyway.
2) b. Fleischmann and Herbert Weixelbaum present Duo 505 - “Late”
I love, love, love this album.
Electronica has been dying a slow, steady death as its various techniques, blurps and warbles are co-opted into pop, alternative, and hip-hop… but it takes an album like “Late” to remind you what electronic music is all about…
It’s a symphony of manufactured sound, an orchestra of beeps and pings, pulses and tones, beats and rhythms… these seven sprawling layers of dense melodica please me unlike all albums electronic in the past five years, and unlike most other albums as well.
3) The Beastie Boys - “To The 5 Boroughs”
The Beastie Boys are most definitely an anomoly. They get the punk crowd, the hip-hop crowd, the indie crowd, and the mainstream poprocks crowd… and if Mike D did a bit more of his “Country Mike” schtick, they’d likely get the C&W crowd too. Their past releases had twisted genres and spun expectations around on a lazy susan, confusing die-hard guitar heads into liking rap, and forcing a bit of punk into the lives of b-boys.
But “To The 5 Boroughs” is unlike any Beastie Boys record, it’s more cohesive and themeatically sound, and also undeniably a straightforward rap album. With Mix Master Mike at the wheels and production board, the Boys have put together a shocking old-school album that takes you back to 1985 sonically but brings you here and now lyrically.
It’s a party album with a message, a b-boy record with purpose. It hits every mark the lads expected it to, and while some songs are undoubtedly catchier than others, it’s solid steel the whole way through.
4) The Futureheads - “The Futureheads”
My music history sucks. I couldn’t reference a band as inspiration that debuted before 1995, and even then I’d be fairly limited in my selection. I would like to say that I wish I knew more reference points from the ’70’s and ’80’s but whenever I listen to most album from those eras (with very few exceptions, but there are a few) I just can’t handle it, rough and simplified. But at the same time I can say: “Aaah, that’s where blank(artist) pulled inspiration for blank(album/song) from. Cool.”
I’m waiting for the day when someone plays for me the albums that inspired the Futureheads, not that I’ll appreciate that inspiration much more, because, hot damn, the Futureheads are amazing. Harmony, melody, chorals and rounds… the emphasis on vocals-as-instrument is shiver inducing. Much like TV On The Radio and Bjork, The Futureheads are looking to reinstate the voice as a commanding and powerful force, whether alone or in conjunction with one, two or ten others.
Each track stands out on its own, as they vary their tricks enough that the songs refuse to blend. From the cover of the album to the sounds inside, the inspiration is definitely the ’80’s but the mentality is in the future… natch!
5) Handsome Boy Modeling School - “White People”
The dark horse on my list for sure. The type of thing that perks an eyebrow or causes a reader to go “this guy don’t know what he’s talking about”… but I can’t help it, I love this album.
Yes, there is one damn dog awful song on the album, and there are a few sketchy others. But there are also some utterly fantastic songs, and regardless if they’re good or not they all push the limits of genres like no album has recently. With pairing of seriously fun-loving and innovative producers Dan the Automator with Prince Paul, that better be the result or there’s something wrong.
“White People” contains skits featuring former SNL-ers Tim Meadows and Father Guido Sarducci that space out and break up the songs. Like the classic De La Soul albums Paul produced back in the early ’90s, they’re humourous but also serve as a palette cleanser.
White People also puts De La and Paul back together for their best track in years, while Dres from the Black Sheep returns from obscurity (last seen 1994) for a great cut.
But it’s not just hip-hop, as Cat Power becomes a Sade-like soul chanteuse, the RZA teams with the Mars Volta, and Reggae powerhouse Barrington Levy teams with Del tha Funkee Homosapien and Alex Kapranos (of Franz Ferdinand).
Even the dog tracks (The Hours-Feat. Chino Moreno, EL-P & Cage, and Greatest Mistake-Feat. John Oates & Jamie Cullum) try to do something different, and explore new regions of music.
Put together as a package, it’s like a variety show, only less insipid and insulting. It challenges people at their borders as it tries to erase the lines in the sand.
6) The Hidden Cameras - “Mississauga Goddamn”
I’ve never made my affection towards the Hidden Cameras a secret. Since the moment I first saw them back in late 2001 opening for Royal City at Lee’s Palace I was enraptured by them, and had I the time and money, I would follow them where ever they go, Dead-Head style.
While 2002 was devoid of any sort of commercially available music (save for Joel’s 4-Track bedroom self-release Ecce Homo) I had the CBC’s “Just Concerts” to thank for a live-in-session performance which I probably listened to a couple times a week which became the benchmark recording. So when they released “A Smell Of Our Own”, with it’s spacious echo-y sound and rather unenergetic vocals, I couldn’t help but be disappointed. I wasn’t feeling the Hidden Cameras in that recording, I was feeling studio engineers and button pushers. The fact that I knew all the songs after seeing them live so many times was all the more disappointing.
“Mississauga Goddamn”, on the other hand, corrects that mistake. New material mixed with old fuels the passion and excitement that one should feel when listening to their songs. Songs about such uncharacteristic topics as enemas and erections are made easily palatable by great orchestration and spiritually infused harmonies. You want to dance and sing along, and if you don’t you need surgery to get that pole remove from your rectum.
While the Hidden Cameras experience on record is not the same as in person, this album puts a concentrated dose of that joy out ther for your limitless consumption.
7) Modest Mouse - “Good News For People Who Love Bad News”
I had heard about Modest Mouse, but I’d not heard Modest Mouse, and frankly I didn’t really care to. What I’d heard about them wasn’t interesting me, wasn’t differentiating them from the three hundred other semi-popular indie-bands out there that I’d not gotten around to giving a chance to.
But one night, painting the bedroom of my new apartment, I was listening to a CBC Radio 3 concert that was all Modest Mouse, mostly tracks from their new album. Initially I was unimpressed.
Three days later I was humming songs I didn’t know and was freaking out because I needed to have them. I stepped into a record shop, and over the speakers I heard “the Good Times Are Killing Me” and everything fell together nicely.
The tracks are joyously downbeat. They’re sad but uplifting tales, dark dramas set against blue skies and green grass. It’s the Sound Of Music for the jaded hipster. Their most commercial album, apparently, with some radio friendly hits, but also I love 10 out of the 15 songs with equal zest. The other five, I like too, just not that much. Picking a favourite is hard… how do you rank a favourite five star song when they’re all five stars?
Some may feel that “Good News…” is too diverse, too inconsistent, but thematically it works so well. It never strays from the oxymoronic mission statement that is the album title. And even 7 months later it’s still exciting to listen to. I hate to attribute “classic” to anything, but I can see myself coming back to “Good News…” in five, ten, twenty years and still smiling a wry smile and nodding my head, shouting along to “Float On” at its ending apex.
Joanna Newsom - “Milk-Eyed Mender”
This year’s critical darling number 1, and darling she is. With barely anything but her voice and her harp Newsom constructs a awkward but beautiful album. It’s the type of career-maker that one can never live up to. It’s really good but I can’t listen to the whole album straight in one sitting.
De La Soul - “The Grind Date”/”De La Mix Tape: Remixes, Classics and Rarities”
De La’s best new album since “Stakes Is High”, I’m gonna have to sit with “The Grind Date” for a bit before it’s greatness hits me. “Mix Tape” is awesome, and contains a half dozen tracks I’ve never heard before, and another half dozen mixes I’ve never heard. If this were an original ‘04 album it would have been top 7.
The Organ - “Grab That Gun”
I still love the Organ, and their music still does funny things to me, giving me feelings I’ve not had since I went through puberty, but “Grab That Gun” is half new material and half re-recorded songs from 2002’s “Sinking Hearts” ep, which kinda pissed me off. But damn, is it ever great stuff.
TV On The Radio - “Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes”
While few of the songs really jump out, the whole album overall is a powerful, energized and wholly original listen. It’s a little sparse at times, but soulful and awe inspiring. The only reason it didn’t make top 7… the Futureheads were just a little more exciting.
Feist - “Let It Die”
Critical darling number 2, Leslie Feist puts together an impressive debut, but, for me, the disparate sounding songs didn’t transition together well killing the flow. Like Newsom, Feist works better in a playlist.
MF Doom/Madvillain - “MM Food”/”Madvillain”
“MM Food” just came out, and I’ve not yet bought or digested it. Doom is always a challenge, a creeper which takes me a while to get into, so I doubt it would have made top 7 anyway. “Madvillain” on the other hand crops up in my subconscious from time to time, but just doesn’t have the evil power strong enough to stay there.
Stars - “Set Yourself On Fire”
Stars’ “Heart” took me a good long while to get into, and though “Set Yourself On Fire” has more of the same, there’s also an angry, violent edge to it that makes it a little tougher to digest. Not all softness and romance this time around.
The GO! Team - “Thunder, Lightning, Strike!”
The more I listen to them, the more I like them. In three months’ time I’m going to wish I’d put them top 7. They’re just not there yet.
Tom Waits - “Real Gone”
Tom Waits is never the easiest of listening, but Real Gone is in equal parts his easiest and most difficult album to get into. Leading off with a bouncy track complete with turntable scratches, it’s catchy and accessible. Not two songs later he chimes in with a 10 minute opus which seems daunting but goes down surprisingly easy. Shortly thereafter he sings a frightening song that would fit well on a chain gang. Not the cheeriest stuff but certainly engaging storytelling.
…b-but they’re supposed to be good
The Fiery Furnaces - “The Blueberry Boat”
Art-rock pop-experimentalism bordering on annoying. The album is less about cuts and more about some rock-opera opus sans any consistent rhythm… and I’m all about rhythm so this is like nodding your head to a flushing toilet, doesn’t work for me.
!!! - “Louden Up Now”
Two-thirds of the alt-disco-beat-down-pop-punk record is engaging, danceable and fun… but their “Shit, Schiesse, Merde” parts 1, 2 and reprised kill it totally for me. And yeah, “Me and Guiliani…” is a great song (the best of 2003, in fact), but it’s treated like filler here, and gets a little lost.
I kinda knew that would happen.
Bjork - “Medulla”
An interesting experiment, Bjork eliminates all instruments except the human voice and some laptops to fuck around with vocal sounds. In concept it’s sounds brilliant, in execution it’s a first draft thesis, as an album interesting but forgettable.
The Streets - “A Grand Don’t Come For Free”
This is a hip-hop album, part comedy, part drama. It tells a story which apparently I’m supposed to care about but albums posing as novels/movies are a difficult thing to pull off. Despite what everyone else seems to think, it just doesn’t work for me. The rhyming is weak… and really that’s what it comes down to. Not a bad concept, not the right guy to pull it off.
A.C. Newman - “the Slow Wonder”
I love Newman’s old band, Zumpano, and his new band, the New Pornographers, but I really don’t like what he’s done on “the Slow Wonder”. Rather plodding pop songs that pale beneath the shadow of the New Pornos, which, whether you want to or not, you have to compare it against.
Not horrid, just blah.
Destroyer - “Your Blues”
If you want to listen to a Destroyer album, this isn’t the one to start with. A little like the music equivalent to “Alexander”.
The Magnetic Fields - “i”
Stephin Merritt is my absolute favourite songwriter out there, and “i” contains a pair of his best ever, but also one of his worst. But with a lack of theme that inspired his on the road trilogy (”Charm of the Highway Strip”, “Get Lost”, “Holiday”) and the “69 Love Songs” opus, “i” kinda just seems like a random assembly of good songs.
Not bad by any means, just didn’t meet my expectations.
Badly Drawn Boy - “One Plus One is One”
Damon Gough was the second coming back in 2000. “Hour of the Bewilderbeast” is one of the best records of the new millenium, but Jesus has he fallen off. The “About A Boy” soundtrack was a wonderful tease at what Gough could do with a budget, but “Have You Fed The Fish…” was a bloated and pretentious piece of wanna-be mainstream garbage. Gough’s desire to be a chart-topping pop star has blinded him about what made his music good in the first place. “One Plus One…” is not only mathematically incorrect but irritating and unlistenable at times.
Drive By Truckers - “The Dirty South”
It’s just not my thing.
Some people love them, but I’ve never been one for honkey-tonk… no matter how it’s presented.
Junior Boys - “Last Exit”
I’ve heard this album a hundred times over the past fifteen years from a hundred different artists. Can someone please explain to me what the big deal is because I’ve listened and it sounds like the same old same old… no better, no worse.